Purpose: This study was designed to ascertain the quality of patient information available on the World Wide Web on the topic of knee arthroscopy.
Methods: For the purpose of quality analysis, we used a pool of 232 search results obtained from 7 different search engines. We used a modified assessment questionnaire to assess the quality of these Web sites. This questionnaire was developed based on similar studies evaluating Web site quality and includes items on illustrations, accessibility, availability, accountability, and content of the Web site. We also compared results obtained with different search engines and tried to establish the best possible search strategy to attain the most relevant, authentic, and adequate information with minimum time consumption. For this purpose, we first compared 100 search results from the single most commonly used search engine (AltaVista) with the pooled sample containing 20 search results from each of the 7 different search engines. The search engines used were metasearch (Copernic and Mamma), general search (Google, AltaVista, and Yahoo), and health topic-related search engines (MedHunt and Healthfinder). The phrase "knee arthroscopy" was used as the search terminology.
Results: Excluding the repetitions, there were 117 Web sites available for quality analysis. These sites were analyzed for accessibility, relevance, authenticity, adequacy, and accountability by use of a specially designed questionnaire. Our analysis showed that most of the sites providing patient information on knee arthroscopy contained outdated information, were inadequate, and were not accountable. Only 16 sites were found to be providing reasonably good patient information and hence can be recommended to patients. Understandably, most of these sites were from nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Furthermore, our study revealed that using multiple search engines increases patients' chances of obtaining more relevant information rather than using a single search engine.
Conclusions: Our study shows the difficulties encountered by patients in obtaining information regarding knee arthroscopy and highlights the duty of knee surgeons in helping patients to identify the relevant and authentic information in the most efficient manner from the World Wide Web.
Clinical relevance: This study highlights the importance of the role of orthopaedic surgeons in helping their patients to identify the best possible information on the World Wide Web.